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Have you ever visited a child care centre or preschool? One thing you are sure to find there is a purpose-built sand play area or ‘sandpit’. It is no secret that children absolutely love playing in sand and fortunately, there are so many benefits to learning and development that are fostered by this kind of play. Whether your child enjoys sand play at home, school or at the beach - here are 4 big benefits of engaging in sand play.
Children gain so much joy from sensory play experiences and by exploring and feeling the different textures of sand (dry, damp, wet) children are developing their sense of touch. Playing in the sand will also help a child develop their fine and gross motor skills, build hand-eye coordination and strengthen their muscles. When playing with sand, each and every movement a child makes will be supporting their physical development, whether it be lifting a heavy bucket or drawing lines in the sand with their finger – sand play is a fun whole-body workout like no other.
Play in the sand can be a complex social environment where children communicate and interact with other children and adults. When children work together on a common project, they are practicing important social skills such as collaboration, sharing, negotiating and turn-taking. Through sand play, children are also getting to build upon their problem-solving skills and use rich language to describe and express their ideas. Sand play is not just a great workout for the body – it is also a wonderful activity for the developing brain.
Sand play presents endless possibilities for children. Whilst many enjoy traditional experiences such as building sandcastles and mountains and digging deep holes - sand can be manipulated is so many different ways that a child is only limited by their own imagination. Adding water to sand will change its texture and allow for the building of complex structures and designs that can hold their shape. There is also a great array of tools that can be used to enhance play in the sand. You might like to consider adding additional tools and materials such as cars, animals, pipes or perhaps even a mud kitchen complete with kitchen utensils. There really are no rules - which is another thing that makes sand play so appealing.
Many parents are uncomfortable with the thought of their child getting messy or dirty. Keeping clean and healthy is important for hygiene purposes but research indicates that children who spend time playing outdoors have much healthier immune systems than other children who tend to remain within indoor environments. Climbing trees, picking flowers, building with sticks and playing in the sand are all activities that will help boost a child’s immune system. The studies are clear – outdoor play is wonderful for children and actually helps them to be strong and healthy as they grow.
Whilst sand play has a multitude of benefits for children, there are a few things to be mindful of in terms of safety. Whether you are going to the beach or playing in a sandpit, it is important that you make sure that there is no harmful debris in the sand such as broken glass or rubbish. You should also check for animal faeces and if the sand smells or is a strange colour then it is best to avoid that area. Raking a sandpit regularly will clear it of leaves and keeping it covered when not in use is a good idea. Finally, don’t forget to provide your child with a hat and sunscreen whilst playing in the sun to avoid damage from those harmful UV rays.
We should never underestimate just how important it is for children to have opportunities to engage in play. Spending time in a sandpit or at the beach is so good for children and provides a full-body experience that is engaging and most importantly – fun! Sand play will provide countless benefits for infants, toddlers and children so consider getting outdoors and into some sand – your child will certainly thank you for it!